Let us pray: Dear Savior, bless us on our journey to Your cross this Lenten season. Fill our hearts with profound appreciation for Your loving self-sacrifice. Yes, may Your glory become our pride and our glory through faith! Amen
GRACE MERCY AND PEACE ARE YOURS FROM CHRIST, OUR LOVING SAVIOR FROM SIN!
TEXT: Luke 18: 31-34
Fellow Redeemed Sinners:
Our six week Lenten journey begins in the exact same place of that journey taken by Christ’s disciples so many years ago. It begins with this call: “Jesus took the Twelve aside and told them, ‘We are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written by the prophets about the Son of Man will be fulfilled. He will be handed over to the Gentiles. They will mock him, insult him, spit on him, flog him and kill him. On the third day he will rise again.’ The disciples did not understand any of this. Its meaning was hidden from them, and they did not know what he was talking about.”
In this call of Jesus to us on Ash Wednesday, we are given a bloodcurdling preview of the great drama of Lent. It is horrible to contemplate, but necessary for our salvation. How could the Creator of the universe be so mocked and insulted? How can this One Who gave us the breath of life be beaten within an inch of His life? How is this possible? Christ Who gives us every good and perfect gift will be cruelly tormented and shamefully executed. Where’s His glory? Where’s His majesty? Ah, it is hidden. Hidden completely in the cross.—Amazing, yet true!
Have you ever thought: “I wish I had been there? I could have helped. I could have defended him. I could have wiped His face with a cool towel or served as a defense witness before Pilate. At the very least I could have comforted Him.”?
Notice that Jesus takes all twelve aside and says to them: “We are going up to Jerusalem.” We, we want to respond. We want to heed His call. One of our greatest sorrows is that we weren’t there to help, that we could not save Him. Well, neither could the Twelve. They could do nothing to unveil His glory because His glory was hidden in the cross and revealed only by and through its sufferings.
Did you also notice how Jesus speaks of Himself in our text? He talks about the “Son of Man.” That’s a title. A title given by God Almighty to His beloved Son, our Brother. A title whereby God will reveal His glory in and through the mocking, the beating, the death of His Son. A title whereby Christ will save our souls. We, like the disciples, are mere spectators to this cosmic event between good and evil. Spectators who now bask in its blessing born of death and resurrection.
Like Peter, every Christian partially longs to rewrite the script. Like Peter, we’d rather remain on the Transfiguration mountaintop basking in the glow of His glory. Like Peter, we shy away from pain and disgrace. If Christ had to suffer, let it at least be hidden from our view. Seeing Christ black and blue, washed in blood and dying is hard to take. And yet such is the paradox of God’s glory. It is hidden in the cross. Yes, by His wounds we are healed.
If you told Jesus your inner longings, how do you think He’d respond? You know the answer. Just as Peter upbraided Christ for speaking of future suffering and Jesus responded: “Get behind me Satan, you do not have in mind the things of God but the things of men” so Jesus would tell us the same. He had to fulfill God’s plan. He had to fulfill the Scriptures which spoke of His suffering and death. He had to take those semi-hidden, often cryptic references to His passion sprinkled throughout the Old Testament and make them real! He had to do it alone to save our souls. He had to taste the bitterness of death alone to appease God’s anger over our sins. For any other way would subtract from His glory.
Jesus knew all this even though His disciples did not. And pure love moved Him to go it alone with them and us as mere spectators. Yes, I know, a part of you would like to turn away. It’s hard to see such pain, isn’t it? Human hatred of God is hard to view. It’s inconvenient. It assaults our senses. But then, our family strife, our harsh words within our marriages, and our deep seated arrogance born of our supposed “goodness” is hard to Christ to see, too. But see it He did. Carry it He did. Die for it He did. And so our journey to Jerusalem is hard-edged. For it reveals not only the bigness of Christ’s heart, but the smallness of our own.
We’d like to help Him. We long to uplift Him and shoulder at least a part of His pain. But everything we do only adds to His pain and suffering. That’s because even on our best days we’re far from perfect. We curse. We practice jealousy. Greed and lust always whisper in our ears. No, to reveal God’s hidden glory of pure love Christ must go it alone. He, the perfect Lamb of God, must die alone, otherwise His sacrifice for our souls would not be perfect and we could not be saved.
Numerous times in the Bible we find Christ going off by Himself. He craved such solitude. Right here He is surrounded by friends, and yet He is also alone. He has called us to observe what we deserved. As we look to His cross we might well groan inside: “Who will deliver us from the sorrow of Lent?” HE WILL and HE DOES! For in the sorrow of Lent, the aloneness of Lent, we find peace, love, forgiveness, and relief! Because He suffered and died all alone for us, we’re saved! Yes, God’s glory, our eternal salvation is hidden in the cross and also revealed in the cross. In a sense the arms of the cross are God’s arms uplifted and ready to embrace you and me!
Perhaps you’ve never thought of it that way. But you should, because it’s true! So, let’s go up to Jerusalem with Him and observe. Let us find bittersweet joy in the solitude of Golgotha. Because if we keep watch long enough amid the darkness of His death, we’ll soon find that darkness gives way to the bright dawn of Easter and both His and our eternal victory. He is risen! He is risen, indeed! Amen